Our Delicious Guide to Affordable Truffle Products
Affordable and truffles are two words we don't often associate. After all, truffles are the ultimate luxury signifier and one of the priciest foods around; they can easily cost anywhere from $250 to $800 a pound, with prices varying by season, availability, and type. So, how can satisfy a truffle craving without breaking the bank? By turning to the next best thing: Shelf stable products that lock in the flavor of truffles and provide mouthwatering umami year-round.
Fresh truffles are highly perishable. When plucked from the ground, they start to lose their aroma, flavor, and quality right away. Preserving truffles can lock in some of their goodness and these products garner a much lower price than the fresh product since their shelf life has been extended. Read on for the lowdown on the best truffle products, what ingredients to look for, and our recommendations.
Real Versus Synthetic Truffle Flavor
If you are not eating fresh truffles, like the black truffle shaved over the raviolo shown here, there is a big chance that you aren't eating real truffles. Most of the truffle products we know and love are made with a synthetic compound that tastes just like truffles, but doesn't come from them. In some cases, some people prefer the synthetic compound because it's so perfectly engineered to our tastebuds.
What to Look For
Flavor is a preference; our preference is always real truffles, but they are not for everyone. Many truffle oil aficionados are shocked when they taste a real truffle—it has a much earthier flavor. Start by taking note of what flavors you enjoy and look at the label to see if the product contains truffles, "natural flavors" (meaning the synthetic compound), or both. Most truffle products are a hybrid of the two, which can actually be quite delicious. Just don't tell Martha—she is not a fan of truffle products, preferring to save her palate for black truffles.
Truffle oils are the one product we most associate with truffle flavor. If you've ordered truffle fries or any dish that doesn't have whole truffle pieces in it, most likely the restaurant has used truffle oil, which is made from a neutral oil infused with the aroma of truffles. Just a small touch of this potent oil goes a long way, so use sparingly and add the oil at the end of cooking as a finishing oil. Try a drizzle of Urbani White Truffle Oil ($19.97, amazon.com), which infuses real truffles into extra-virgin olive oil, over pasta dishes or risotto.
Salt is the ultimate preserving technique for many fine foods and a necessary ingredient in pretty much every recipe, making it the perfect vehicle for truffles. Think of truffle salt as umami-enhanced salt. Just like the oil, use truffle salt as a finishing salt on steak, vegetables, and more. One of our favorites, Jacobsen's White Truffle Salt ($39.95, williams-sonoma.com), marries our favorite Oregon sea salt with white truffles.
Truffle butter combines two flavors we can't get enough of: butter and truffles. As if a dollop of butter over a steak or melted butter drizzled over popcorn or vegetables wasn't delicious enough, the addition of truffles adds a pop of flavor making it irresistible. Even just a bite of buttered toast can become a magical moment when it's finished with a spread of D'Artangan Black Truffle Butter ($9.99, dartagnan.com), which has little bits of black truffle in it.
Truffle mustard is great for adding a touch of umami into a dish. Try roasting it on chicken, spread onto sandwiches, or whisked into vinaigrettes. Both Maille Black Truffle Mustard with Chablis ($43, maille.com) and Maille White Truffle Mustard with Chardonnay ($49, maille.com) are delicious and fun ways to try the nuances of both white and black truffles without breaking the bank.
Pair sweet with umami in the form of truffle-infused honey; just a drizzle can really make a savory dish pop. Start by putting out a little bowl of Artisan de la Truffe Honey ($19.95, williams-sonoma.com) in a cheese platter and then experiment with it in your favorite savory dishes that use a touch of honey.